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The opportunity to perform a gesture of humankindness sometimes presents itself when least expected. When Kay Brown, 26, stepped into a New York subway one November evening, she encountered such a moment. Seated in the same carriage was a barefoot woman burdened with multiple parcels containing her worldly possessions, but completely ill prepared for winter without any shoes or socks on her feet.

That’s when Kay approached her fellow passenger. “I asked her what shoe size she wore and we were the same. I gave her the shoes off my feet and they fit perfectly. She couldn’t have been more gracious,” Kay wrote on her Facebook page. “She started crying immediately, saying, ‘Are you sure?’ Then she hugged me. There was no bone in my body that was like, ‘Don’t do this.’ I had to,” Kay told a news outlet later that week.

Kay, an aspiring stage actor and dancer, made her six block walk home in socks, feeling gratitude for the kind gesture of another subway rider who offered her an extra pair of thick socks to layer over her own thin ones.

An active volunteer in organizations from animal adoptions to soup kitchens, Kay says she posted her story and three fuzzy photos in part to acknowledge the kind gesture of that man and in part to encourage others to make room for charitable acts in their lives. She awoke to find that her story had struck a nerve and hundreds of people were sharing it with their own circles of friends.

The media started contacting Kay a mere 36 hours after she posted the photo. While surprised, she admits, “It was a really good feeling.” Kay says she was thrilled and overwhelmed with the outpouring of responses from all over the world, ultimately numbering tens of thousands. Many of these contained messages indicating, “Hey, I have shoes, I have shoes!”

That unsolicited generosity, the ripple effect of all the publicity coupled with that really good feeling prompted Kay to think more about doing something she’s always wanted to do. “Maybe this was a sign,” muses Kay in a YouTube interview. And in February 2016, Ms. Brown launched her own nonprofit organization to collect shoe donations for people in need.

This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via Examiner.com for CBS Local Media